The Servile State is a book published by Hillaire Belloc in 1912. It concerns the outcome of Capitalism (which Belloc believed to be an unstable state). Over the course of the next few weeks I am going to provide a summary of this rather prescient book.
At the outset it is worth noting that the future as predicted by Belloc did not come to pass exactly has he foretold, but over the course of the last hundred years society has slowly made its way down the path to the Servile State, however reluctantly and haltingly.
Belloc was born in 1870 and educated at Oxford and was part of that interesting generation on the cusp of the old traditions of England and the new and growing Western empire. Not being molded as a cookie cutout clone through the modern factory education system and being raised on highly slanted history, Belloc often takes knowledge for granted that may seem strange, if not outright, incorrect to us overly educated moderns. I mention this at the outset to avoid confusion.
Before covering the instability of Capitalism (my next Servile State post), I need first to define my terms:
1. Capitalism: When the means of production is controlled by a few. The majority of the population are proletarians and wage earners, having nothing to sell but the sweat of their brow, whether they wear a blue collar or a white collar.
2. Distributivism: What most of us think of as Capitalism. This is where the ownership and control of the means of production are spread among an economically and politically free population.
3. The Free Market: When economically and politically free men can trade voluntarily, usually for goods or labour. If men are coerced to trade by law then they are no longer free and neither is the market. If the men have no option, economically, but to trade and can never have any other option, are they free? And is the market still free?
The free market is a concept of Distributivism and whenever anyone defends the free market they assume that the population exists in a distributivist state with the political and economic freedom to voluntarily trade (or not) and the political and economic means to make a living without coercion.
4. Communism: A wse and benevolent government (in theory) controls the means of production.
5. Socialism: The means of production are controlled by the proletariat.
A point of clarification: I am not here to discuss theory and ideal worlds but reality. The reality is that the way the world is that the majority of wealth of power are concentrated in the hands of a tiny number, and that number is shrinking.* This is the current reality, and it is known as Capitalism, and it corresponds to the definition above.**
6. Wealth: Man cannot exist without wealth. Wealth is matter that has been intentionally altered from its state of nature to a state where it is more serviceable for man. Wealth is made from Land (material comes under land) Labour and Capital
7. Means of production is the combination of Capital and Land.
8. Proletariat: Those who possess neither significant land nor capital but the political freedom to do as he pleases.
9. Private Property: Property controlled by an individual who can do as he pleases with it without acting for the good of society.
10. The Servile State: “That arrangement of society in which so considerable a number of the families and individuals are constrained by positive law to labour for the advantage of other families and individuals as to stamp the whole community with the mark of labour we shall call The Servile State”.
This is starting point 1.
Starting point 2 is history that was not taught in
our indoctrination farms high school. History that has been forgotten but was taken for granted 100 years ago when Belloc wrote the Servile State:
Slavery is the norm of history. Unlike what we were taught in school, slavery was not about one superior race enslaving another inferior race.*** Slavery usually came about through debt or military triumph. Almost always the owners and the slaves were of the same race. Greeks enslaved Greeks, Africans enslaved Africans and so on. The history of slavery in the US stands out unique due to the supeior whites enslaving the inferior negroes…until one looks a little closer. It was Africans slavers who sold the plantation slaves to the American colonists.#
In England, with the slow onset of Catholicism’s influence society changed from one of servants and masters to a more distributivist society. Democracy spread, guilds were established which passed even more bargaining power into the hands of the average man and so on. This did not last. The aristrocracy pressured the government into selling off, at a reduced price, many common lands and this was the actual beginning of Capitalism. Using their greater wealth and influence the rich slowly pointed England back in an uneqgalatarian direction.###
A hundred years later, after the advent of Capitalism the industrial revolution began. Thus, to properly grasp history one must appreciate the fact that Capitalism, the means of production held in the hands of a few, proletarianism and so on precedes the industrial revolution and was not caused by it, but through the tendency of society to return to its historical normalcy.
At the time Capitalism was being born the founders of America were declaring their independence from England. The founders of America, the writers of the Consitution were distributivists at heart. The words of the declaration of the independence, the idea of a Republic and Constitution reflect this sentiment. Looking at their words and actions through this lens allows one to aptly understand their intentions, and the behemoth that modern American government and society has become.
Summation: We have touched upon the terms and the history necessary to understand Belloc’s contention that Capitalism shall inevitably lead to a Servile State. We shall take it further next time.
**If you have a different definition of capitalism, ask yourself when and where is it a reality (if it ever was?). Secondly, does your definition of capitalism match my definition of distributivism? If so, what matters more, the terms or instead of the meaning behind them (wherein we are in agreement)?
*** That narrative was created in universities according to Belloc.
#. This is something one needs to research on their own to understand and believe.
## As Above.